„Strong as Ziegenhain“ was once a saying which referred to the imposing former water fort. From 1537, the landgrave Philipp the Noble had the landgrave’s castle including the city core surrounded by 4 roundabouts and a mighty ring wall. This is how the central main fortress of the four Hessian land fortresses was developed. In 1807, fort Ziegenhain was slighted on Napoleons order. The water trench and the castle remained, which has been used as a prison since 1872.
Fortress visitors can walk along the water trench and have a look at the exhibits in the Schwalm museum, the former commander’s house.
Monument and History
Landgrave Philipp the Noble, also known as „Leo Hassiae“, was one of the first protestant electors in the German speaking area. From 1537 he had the landgrave’s castle rebuilt to the central main fortress of the four Hessian state fortresses by (among others) Balthasar von Germersheim. Because of him and the Ziegenhain church discipline regulations, developed under his thoughtful regency in 1539, the Protestantism was decisively influenced and Ziegenhain became the birth location of the Confirmation in today’s form in 1539. Since 2017, Ziegenhain is therefore also calles “Confirmation city Schwalmstadt”.
Also, the founding of the first protestant university in Marburg traces back to him.
During the Thirty Years’ War the saying “as strong as Ziegenhain” was developed. Only the Seven Years’ War shook this myth of the impregnableness of the fortress.
Landgrave Frederic II. made fortress Ziegenhain to a reception station for recruits of Hessian soldiers for the war of independency in North America. From 1775, conscripted subsidies troops fought from Ziegenhain on the English side, among them the poet Johann Gottfried Seume.
In 1807, slighting of the fortress started on Napoleons’ order. Since 1842 the castle became a prison for forced labourers within the fortress, later also used as women’s prison. The museum of Schwalm” in the “Stone House” on the parade place keeps a large model of the water fort in the condition of 1761 and interesting relics from the history of the fortress and the region.
Castle of counts of Ziegenhain
The comlete core of Ziegenhain includin the castle facilities, church and houses was built under landgrave Philipp from 1537. Besides a mighty ring wall with altogether 4 defensive roundabouts, walls and the inner and outer water trench were developed. Also, the foreland of the fortress could be flodded in case of defence via the channel system of the Schwalm.
During the years 1622 – 1623, four ravelins provided an additional enhancement of the fortification and also the city Weichaus was surrounded by walls. That way the water fort Ziegenhain could live through the Thirty Years’ War with almost no damage.
Only in 1758, the Seven Years’ War, Ziegenhain, as an outdated fortress, had to surrender without a fight to the French troops. In 1761, Hessian artillery bombarded Ziegenhain and brought damage.
By the end of the 18th century, the parade place and the “New Guardhouse” were built as well as a new fortress entrance with a bridge. In 1806, another fightless surrender followed, this time to the Napoleonic troops, under whose order the slighting of water fort Ziegenhain began in 1807.